For half an hour Lorna watched Ed coaching Gypsy through a gentle program of muscle toning exercises in the basement gym, then Gypsy changed into one of his all black stage costumes and joined Lorna, Ed and Erskine in the Lamborghini for the short trip to the Chilvers project theatre; a lovely little Victorian style, eight hundred seat newly built theatre where a crowd of kids, rehearsing for a Christmas show, mobbed their idol. Much to Lorna's surprise, Gypsy explained that all the children had been rescued from a life of sexual or physical abuse, and the Chilvers Project gave them an opportunity to rebuild their confidence to face the world through music and theatre. This was one part of Lorna's day with Gypsy which the blue dragon was not allowed to attend.
From there, with Marla and Co, in attendance, the car took them to the famous Rosscroft Clinic to open the new children's ward built onto the orthopedic unit; the equipment inside again financed by the Chilvers Project. The ward contained ten beds for in-patients, two rooms for parents who needed to stay with the children; and a day clinic for outpatients. As soon as the preliminary ceremony of opening the ward was over, two children, suffering from spinal injuries similar to those he had suffered, took up his attention. One, a timid little nine-year old girl seemed much calmer about her approaching surgery after Gypsy had chatted to her before going on to talk to the rest of the patients and their families. After a tour of the rest of the hospital and coffee in his private suite, Gypsy took Lorna and Marla into a miniature theatre where some young long-term patients were rehearsing for a concert for the rest of the patients and their families.
Ignoring Marla, Gypsy invited Lorna to be seated, while he joined in the rehearsal. On the tiny stage, the scenery depicted a child's bedroom with a life-size poster with its centre blanked out and hanging on a wall. Gypsy took hold of the hand of a mid-teen Down's Syndrome patient, and led her onto the stage. Gypsy whispered into her ear for a few minutes and helped her lie down on the bed. As Gypsy stepped up into the blank poster and struck up a balletic pose, the Adagio of Bruch's Violin concerto Number One began to play, and Lorna was treated to a play with two older children pretending to be her parents, tucking the girl into bed and kissing her goodnight, and the girl fell asleep dreaming of being able to dance with her favourite star. As the dream progressed, Gypsy, as the dream dancer, stepped down from the poster, took hold of the girl's hand and helped her to fulfill her dreams of dancing with him. The movements were not all that simple but, despite her handicap, she coped very well and displayed a determination to exhibit her talents, which many Down's Syndrome sufferers were never given the chance of developing. When the ballet came to an end with the girl back in bed and Gypsy once more a part of the poster, those who were watching, applauded with great enthusiasm. The girl beaming from ear to ear as Gypsy helped her down off the stage. She happily let a nurse lead her away and Gypsy came to where Lorna was sitting.
Lorna smiled and applauded Gypsy as he sat down beside her. "That was lovely, Gypsy. There's a story behind all this isn't there?"
"You bet there is. It's a case of overprotective parents not listening to people telling them that kids like Jodie can live normal lives and do things other kids do. We only found out about her talents when she was in an accident and brought here for extensive surgery on her legs. I asked her one day what he most precious wish was and she said it was to dance with me. Naturally I was flattered and asked my own dance tutor, Madam Marsaud, to see what she could do. We devised a plan and this is the result. The concert is being shown in the Chilvers Project Theatre towards Christmas, and we hope her performance will open her parents' eyes and stop them rapping her in cotton wool. That's my dearest wish, to help kids like her live normal lives."
After finally escaping from a mob of young patients determined to keep Gypsy prisoner in the new ward, Lorna found herself back in the Lamborghini, and speeding off to the next destination; a large department store in the centre of London, for a signing session to promote various CD's, books and other collectables. By the time the session was over, Lorna felt quite exhausted, having quickly learned what it was to have hoards of eager fans straining against the human barriers of Barney's 'men, and the security men employed by the store, the fans being allowed in, four at a time, to approach the table where Lorna and Gypsy sat, Gypsy's smile never fading for a second. He had a quick word for very adoring fan before signing their purchases. At last, Gypsy put his pen back in Ed's safe keeping and rose to his feet. He looked down at Lorna, "How is that appetite of yours?"
Lorna remembered the pig she had made of herself at Blackpool, and colored slightly. "Not quite so large these days."
Gypsy grinned and pulled her to her feet. "You suntil like seafood?"
"Great!" Gypsy linked arms with her. "A seafood lunch it is then; Barney, we will take this lovely lady to Sheekey's but first I think I'll spoil this young lady. Take us to Barbara's Boutique; it's up Portobello Road." He gave Lorna a crafty grin. "It's only a tiny place but Joe gets her clothes from there so I know Barbara makes some real chic stuff."
"Clothes? What do I need clothes for?"
Gypsy put an arm round her waist and gave her a squeeze. "I was only supposed to host the winner of that competition for one day but I think I can extend it a little. How about spending the weekend with me as well? I know you haven't brought anything with you but Barbara doesn't just sell fancy stuff, she'll rig you out with all you'll need." In a happy daze, Lorna let him usher her into the car, wondering what her Aunt would say; she was expecting her back in time for supper.
On the pavement, outside the store, a tall man in a grey suit held his ground against the excited crowds watching Gypsy and his guest leave. The man watched closely as the star and his entourage climbed into the Lamborghini. As it pulled away from the curb, the man pushed his way through the crush to the edge of the pavement and hailed a cab. Telling the cabbie he worked for an exclusive magazine, he offered the driver triple his cab fare plus waiting time, he had him tail the Lamborghini, first to Portobello Road and then into St. Martin's Court. The man waited until the car had dropped its passengers before stepping out onto the pavement, leaving a happy cabbie counting his loot. He watched the group enter Sheekey's and walked slowly to the entrance, smiling softly. He would wait, as he had waited years before, even though his earlier attempts to snare this prize had always been thwarted. The right moment would come if he was patient. That was how he had won many a treasure, and he remembered one in particular who, after several months of gentle persuasion, had finally knocked on the door of his cottage, and had greeted him with a cheerful, "Hello, I've brought your book back."
The boy had stepped into the hallway of his house without a hint of hesitation. The man had taken his coat and hung it up while the boy peeked into the back living room, adding, "Where's your family; gone away then?"
"My wife has taken our daughters up to Glasgow for a few days. "Tommy's upstairs, John. Why don't you go on up. I'm just about to make a pot of tea."
The boy had grinned as he brushed past him on his way to the stair. "Haven't you got anything stronger than that to drink? I can get teat at home."
As the boy mounted the stairs, the man had been unable to resist caressing the boy's rump, letting his hand stay there as the boy took the next step. "Oh, yes, I do have an alternative, and believe me, it's much more potent." The boy's eyes had glinted with mischief as he had gazed down at him, and the man had released him suddenly and had smacked him on the rump. "Up you go; I won't be long." Minutes later he had carried the tea tray up into the small back bedroom where the curtains were drawn and the room lit by a barrage of photo-floods. A tall muscular youth lay, completely naked, on the blue draped bed, reading a sex magazine. The younger boy, John lay close to him, stroking the older boy's equipment. Without looking up from the magazine, the youth had said, "John's found a lad to take Paul's place,"
"Oh?" The man had looked towards John as he set the tray down on a dresser top. "A friend of yours is he?"
"Do me a favour! He's just a boy from the same school as me."
"How do you know he's suitable?"
"I just know, that's all." John had grinned slyly. "He's as broke as I was when I first came here. No parents; lives with an older sister who has enough trouble trying to keep his younger sister from being carted off without worrying about her wayward brother. She spends all her time down at the docks."
"So what does the boy do?"
"Fends for himself like I did. Bit of a brain box, spends most of his time in the library reading technical books; he won't get watched by the authorities, know what I mean?" The smile had widened. "Caught him and another boy behind the bike shed last Friday, didn't I? Hadn't a clue what the other boy was doing but he liked it, all right. The other boy spotted me and bolted but I grabbed this one and gave him a pep talk."
Tommy had eyed him knowingly. "I'll bet."
John had shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I had to sample the goods, didn't I? I'm telling you, he's a push over. Give him a taste of what it's all about and wave a bit of money in front of his nose and he's licked, literally!" He had giggled at his own joke.
The man had frowned thoughtfully. "I don't know, John, you know my policy, no two lads from the same area, especially from the same school. How old is he?"
"Twelve; just had his birthday. Why don't you see him first? He's waiting in the bus shelter down the road. I said I'd go back and get him within ten minutes otherwise he was to grab the next bus home."
"What:" The man had exclaimed, "You little fool. This is an area where kids are hardly seen hanging around bus stops. A boy on his own will stick out a mile. You'd better go and fetch him before anyone sees him, and don't you ever do that again, it's too risky." After John had left to fetch the new boy, the man had told Tommy to put his clothes back on and proceeded to take several tasty shots of him undressing, followed by close ups of him lying on the bed and playing with himself. The front door bell rang, and the man breathed a sigh of relief.
The boy who had entered the house with John was attractive in a quiet way, with brown hair, brown eyes, a sad face, frayed collar and faded jeans. His trainers were worn to holes and he had a starved look about him. John had been right for once, a miscellaneous person easily lost in a crowd and soon forgotten, no one would remember this one, nothing stood out, except for his eyes, they were soft like a woman's and showed a sensitive streak. After a few words of greeting, the man had shown the boy upstairs, not to the back room but to the room next door. This one was even smaller than the back one but much cozier with its yellow floral wallpaper, lemon bedspread and curtains, soft lights, and with the central heating turned up to a temperature comfortable enough to erase the need for clothes, a gentle persuasive touch the man had thought of. Once the boy had been seated on the bed and the curtains closed, more to give the boy a sense of security rather than against prying eyes, the man had knelt in front of him and pulled five crisp ten pound notes out of his trouser pocket, the boy's eyes lighting up the moment as he watch the man count them.
"What is your name, son?" the man had asked him.
"Steven Hendricks," the boy had replied.
"Right, Steven, only John and I will ever know your real name. If you stay with us, your name will be… let's see…how about Wayne?"
The boy had just nodded, his eyes on the money, and the man had asked him to lie back and relax.
Barney was aware of many things as he sat at the table next to Gypsy's. He glanced across at Erskine and Ed, sitting with him; they had noticed too and gave him knowing grins before resuming their eating. To anyone who didn't know Gypsy's ways, it was a normal lunch date with a pretty companion, but Barney had been with Gypsy too long to not know the difference. Gypsy had always lunched in the city with at least one nice looking female for company; one of his dancers perhaps, or a journalist after a story, or one of the many clerical assistants from the studios, Gypsy being the perfect host always remembered the tiniest details. There would be a single red or white rosebud waiting on the table and a little present carefully wrapped by Gypsy himself; the wine would be the girl's favourite, Sarah having done the research about the guest's tastes for food and drink; the things she liked to talk about would be discussed during the meal, but it was only a game Gypsy played, on his terms and always with the same result, he slept alone and saved his love for Erica. Of course people talked, the kind ones speaking of his grief for Shana and his struggle against ill health, the scars on his body making him shy away from any sexual contact with a woman; the others talked of him not being capable of having sex with anyone. At worst, they gossiped about his early life, which was hinted at by the scandal magazines. Well, once a fag always a fag; hadn't Shana Royle been a mother figure and nothing more? And wasn't this parade of lovely lunch dates just a cover up? But not this time; this lunch date was a one off, completely spontaneous with no time to research the lady's tastes.
Barney knew it would not be long before the gossip columns made a meal out of the Welsh boy turning up. Where there was smoke, wouldn't they say? Barney desperately hoped that what he had noticed had some deeper meaning and would put the gossip-monger something else to think about. Gypsy had kept his arm round the girl's waist right until the moment she had sat down at the table, and there was a new sparkle in his eyes as he gazed across the table at her, hanging onto every word she said as she told her story. As a child Barney had been deaf, his disability having been cured by skillful surgery, but not before he had learned to lip read, a habit he had found quite useful in his line of work. He used it now to follow the conversation. The girl had left school with four '0' levels and had drifted through several dull jobs before realizing she wanted to work with children. First she had found a job at a day centre for handicapped children then she had moved down to Rugby to help her aunt run a private foster home and crèche for working mums. She had thought about Gypsy a lot and had regretted her foolishness at Blackpool. She had longed to apologize but the chance had never arisen, until now.
She had drifted through several love affairs, none of them meaning anything to her. She had smiled and said, finally, that she believed Mr. Right would come along one day and she was in no hurry to get married. Was this really Gypsy's Frigid Freda talking? This girl was so warm and open. Amazing! Barney took his eyes off Gypsy and the girl for a moment to accept another cup of coffee from the waiter, and a movement caused him to look up quickly. Gypsy was on his feet at staring at a customer who had just taken his seat at a table in a far corner. The girl had turned round in her seat and she too looked rather surprised. Suddenly Gypsy was hurrying between the tables, the customer looking up as Gypsy approached him. Barney signaled to one of his men sitting near the main entrance. The body guard nodded and rose to his feet, ready to intervene if necessary. The other diner rose to his feet with a wide smile on his face, he was very tall with a shock of black hair going grey at the sides. As they shook hands heartily, Barney tapped Erskine on the arm and pointed to them. "Who's the guy Gypsy's talking to?"
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